October 29, 2008
I'm not going to get into a ton of details... if you want to know specifics write me an email. But I can say generally that my meeting with the producers was very positive today, they made clear their intent to option two of my scripts and appear to have a very smart plan together. I am now awaiting the specific offer so I can review it with a lawyer and other experts.
So it's a waiting game to see if this is the right way to go.
The Phillies and this on the same day. Wow! And Ollie get's his special Snow Leopard Gecko tomorrow, too.
It's hard to understand the Philadelphia Sport Fan's mentality if you're not one... but let me clue you in that up until literally the last strike tonight a win and a championship seemed so far away and impossible. I didn't want to, but I believed in that horrible Billy Penn curse! But now that they won, anything really seems possible. It's crazy...
Got to love it! Got to believe!
Thank you Phillies! You guys rocked... and deserved it.
October 26, 2008
This post will be a bunch of unrelated thoughts, the only relation being that I am thinking them.
I am so glad the Phillies ended up winning that game. I'm such a Philadelphia sports fan through and through, so I am in absolute disbelief that they did. I am cautiously optimistic about their chances, they don't give up.
We took Ollie and Lyric to Santa Barbara today, along with Darby's parents, who are visiting. Wow, the place is such a wonderful spot. From their zoo, which is one of the best I've ever visited, to their Sea Center to their beautiful downtown... love the place.
Cool story about the zoo. We had to return Ollie's beloved gecko, "Leopard" to petco because he was sick beyond our ability to care for him (read between the lines, people). Anyway, he was heartbroken. And now even months later, he continues to sometimes cry about it. It's very sad.
We decided to buy him a new one, but this time to get it from a reputable dealer. And we found one in Toronto that is really cool looking... it's white with black spots and blue coloring above his eyes. Normal leopard geckos are orange and black. Ollie was really excited about him, but decided he wanted to call him Leopard but he sadly realized he couldn't because he wasn't orange and black. We tried to assure him he still could, but he wasn't hearing it. Quick thinking lad that I am, I remembered that there are SNOW LEOPARDS, which are white with black spots. So Ollie excitedly decided the new gecko would be named Snow Leopard. He even wrote Snow Leopard a letter.
So today, what is at the Santa Barbara Zoo? A real life SNOW LEOPARD. So cool!
Then, they had a "Sea Center" on the wharf. It was small and kind of expensive, but it was Ollie's birthday and he wanted to do it and it had swell sharks that you could touch so I was in. But it turned out to be the best ocean-related place ever and I will tell you why.
We walk through the standard touch a shark area into a room WITH A HUGE HOLE IN THE FLOOR THAT DROPS 30 FEET TO THE OCEAN. And there is a woman there letter us drop a big metal claw into the water which closes and lifts sand back to the room. We then sort the sand and Ollie gets to pick out living creatures with a little pair of tweezers. And we find an isotop, a kelp crab, and a marine animal that has a heart like a human. It was so awesome.
I can't wait for the season premiere of 30 Rock.
Wow, I'm loving the song, "Paper Planes" by MIA.
And the show Mad Men is pure genius.
Some of the best creative work being done these days is on TV. Mad Men, Dexter, The Office... I really would like to get into TV someday but with young kids and a marriage the time commitment is just too much at this stage in my life. But someday, I have a drama idea that I really want to develop.
I have so much writing to do. Re-writes. A play. My latest feature (a sports movie!).
I don't see how McCain wins this election. Not at all.
Goodness, I think Kristen Wiig on SNL is so brilliant. I could watch her all day.
Today was Ollie's birthday, and I just love that boy so much. He has such an amazing sense of humor, finding joy in the rhythms of life. He is also so compassionate, caring so much about other people. He's also surprisingly defiant - in a good gutsy, fearless way. One time I saw him playing on the playground and some kid about two feet taller them him said something rude to his friend. Ollie ran up to the kid and got right in his face and said, "Hey, you can't talk to my friend like that!" I was impressed... and a little nervous for him. But honestly that attitude is rare, can't be taught, and could really be a benefit to him. People who aren't afraid of conflict (and not eager for it either) can really be successful. Today we were talking about the things we liked about Ollie and Lyric said he was her best friend. It brought a tear to my eye, it did.
Yes, this is long. Yes, back to that "need to write" thing. Yes, maybe I'm procrastinating a bit. But I'm up to page 22 and I've earned it. I sort of can't believe I've already written 22 pages, but they're good solid scenes, and I'm really starting to like the story. So that's good.
I had a conference with my theater teacher on Friday, but I have no idea really how to translate his comments into my actual play. He said he liked the setup and subject matter of my play, but be sure I keep it organic, clean, and honest. So I guess so long as I stay away from pesticides, dirt and lies I'll be ok. Seriously, though, I'm quite excited about this play.
All the people who love Coldplay and think that I hate Coldplay (which I don't!) will be happy to know that I love their new song (Viva La Vida or something like that.) They sounded great on SNL too. I love a band that can sound good live. Not sure about that arm band gone wild style though, Chris.
I now want to visit the Channel Islands, which are off the coast of Santa Barbara. They are sometimes referred to as the Galapogas Islands of North America, with 145 species that are found no where else in the world. They are quite beautiful too!
October 24, 2008
Could this be a good thing?
A producer called me today after having finished reading THE KINGDOM OF TOVENRAY and HER 14TH MISSION. She was very excited, and loved both of them. She's just now leaving her former production company and teaming with another exec from other companies to form a new one.
Anyway, I'm meeting with both of them on Wednesday to discuss where to go from here. She said they both already can see HER 14TH MISSION on the screen, and have a real vision for it. And she said if I'm close to signing with an agent or a manager I might as well put it off for a week or two so I won't have to share the money I'll get from these scripts. That's pretty much an admission that she's going to make an offer... I would think.
Now, not one to want to get suckered (and susceptible to it because I'm an optimist!), I know that maybe she doesn't want me to get that manager just yet because they might push for a better deal. However, I don't feel like she's trying to trick me because she said, "You will want to be sure to have a good lawyer to look over it for you, though." And I'd like to think that we're kind of friends now. (See, that optimist thing again.) And she said she can already tell I'm a writer she'd like to work with a lot because of the unique voice and the storytelling range I displayed in the two scripts she's read. (I also have a weakness for those who like to compliment me.)
There is also the dilemma of selling the option to a script that is currently being read by many people around town... to a brand new production company with no track record. They could conceivably present the project badly to the studios around town and get passes from all of them, killing its chances of actually getting made. And while money is and would certainly be nice... I'm writing films to see them on the screen.
So now I have to start figuring out how much they can offer me for an option that is worth that risk. I'm not sure of the number, to be honest! And with companies expressing interest, I just don't know exactly what I should do.
I guess it's a nice problem to have, though.
October 22, 2008
Austin Film Festival Wrapup
The Austin Film Festival is hectic, packed with tons of great guests and information, exhausting, and also a tad bit depressing. Yet ultimately it served to make me feel really good about where I am.
Let's start with the good. Listening to panelists like Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon), John Lee Hooker (writer/director of The Rookie and The Alamo, among others.), and Danny Boyle (director of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire) was nothing short of inspirational and illuminating. Oh yeah, and Laurence Kazdan was there too. Writer on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Empire Strikes Back.
This is a nice little time to tell the story of the first time I saw The Rookie, which is the baseball movie starring Dennis Quaid (NOT the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The writer of that movie was in Austin, too. I talked to him after his session, saying, "I just loved the Rookie!" and he said, "Wait which Rookie?" and I said the baseball movie and he said, "I didn't write that one. That one is better than the one I wrote." And now I found myself in a conversation with someone who I didn't want to be talking to anymore, I hadn't even seen his Rookie!). I saw the good Rookie film on a flight to California when I still worked at JP Morgan Chase. I was going on a business trip to meet with folks at Disney. I saw this film, about a man recapturing his dream when he thought he had given up on it, and I just couldn't stop crying! It spoke to me so much at the time, and made me believe that I could give this writing thing a shot. I'm not going to say it's the sole reason I made the life change I did, but it contributed. Movies are powerful!
And then the films. It's fun to be able to watch free films every night, and have your choice of a ton of them. It's also hard to explain just how cool it is to watch a film at a festival, it's more like a theatrical play atmosphere, where the crowd is quick to laugh and quick to cheer. I was 1 for 3 on the movies I saw.
W was horrible. Avoid it unless you have a morbid curiosity on what a bad film looks like. The thing that I found so tragic was that there actually was a good movie that could have been made. James Cromwell's performance as the elder Bush was excellent. If Stone had decided to play the story straight and emphasize the Shakespearean elements (the father/son/brother elements could have been sooo strong) he could have had a Godfather caliber political story on his hands.
Instead he resorted to a badly done extended SNL skit, with one dimensional caricatures. It was the political equivalent of one of those "Epic," "Scary," and "Date" Movies, which doesn't really make jokes or add anything new that's humorous, they merely re-create a scene from another film and declare it funny. Remember when push choked on a pretzel? Remember all the phrases he mangles? Ha ha! What a missed opportunity. It could have been about so many things. About the tension in the room, with all these advisors with agendas, a high stakes 10 Angry Men. It could have been the family story. It could have been the opposite of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where an idealistic man comes to Washington and becomes really, truly corrupted. It could have been the story of a group of men that really duped a country. It could have been anything and been better than what it was, which was a bunch of skits that had no story or point of view.
The other movie I saw wasn't really worth discussing too much. We watched it because we ate lunch with the director and he begged us to. He didn't mention he was in it. And naked. It made no sense, was not funny, was crude, and seemed like an extended 3.5 million dollar ploy for him to get to make out with a hot girl.
But both of these downers were made up for by the triumphant film Slumdog Millionaire. Please support this film when it releases. I don't want to spoil anything about it. Just watch it. It should win an Oscar. Just incredible filmmaking.
Now for the depressing part. Parts of the festival just had the stench of desperation hanging heavy over it. So many people there with their one screenplay, dying to make this festival their ONE BIG BREAK. It's horrible to be around, it's embarrassing to watch. People have to play it cool, be confident that you have the talent to eventually make it.
After just about every session, there was time for questions and answers. Inevitably, people would ask some question that actually was a long extended way of them saying how awesome they were. "Hi, I've written a really excellent TV Pilot and I need to find a way to get the people at HBO to read it. Do you have any suggestions?" Translation: PLEASE READ MY TV PILOT I'M HERE IN AUSTIN TO BREAK INTO HOLLYWOOD.
And many people were looking for distribution for their films. Common scenario: You self finance a film and put 150K (and up) on credit cards and a payment is due. You have dreams of showing the film at a festival and some studio exec will say, "This is incredible! I want to buy your movie!" I don't know how many people I heard saying "I told the exec from Paramount Vantage about my film, she said she might stop by and see it." Later, we found out the exec from Paramount Vantage went to see the University of Texas football game. Needless to say, no films were purchased.
It was sad and naive and honestly I didn't like to be in that audience and somehow get lumped in with them!
Last notes: Sessions started at 9am, which on my west coast time was 7am. I was exhausted. The days were long, we didn't really get to explore Austin, which really was a beautiful town from what I could see. The BBQ was delicious. I want to go back.
So in the end, I'm really glad I went. I met some cool people, had a fantastic time with friends from UCLA, and learned a lot. But I will only go back once they invite me as a panelist... Or as a filmmaker.
October 21, 2008
Sorry for the little communication...
I don't have much time, so I promise a proper update at some point soon.
I have to write 30 pages of my new screenplay this week... Plus I'm trying to rewrite two of mine, too. So things are kind of busy. Plus I have a special little guy's birthday coming up. And the final couple of weeks of development with the iPhone application (hurray, we were approved as developers by Apple earlier this week) involves multiple daily conferences with my buddies in India, Prakash, Huri, and Abshivek...
So things are busy, and I'm kind of scrambling to catch up from my extended time in Austin. (I'll write a real post about that at some point I promise.)
You have to see a film called SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE when it releases later this year. I saw it at the film festival, and it was absolutely incredible. Just a tip, you heard it hear first. Best Picture of the Year.
Got a nice message from a manager / producer today.
Hope all is well. My apologies for taking so long to get back to you -- but I've been bombarded with 300 Nicholls scripts and another several dozen from the Austin Film Festival. I did finally have a chance to look over WELL ADJUSTED BOY and have to say that I was most impressed with your writing and voice. I am on the fence about the project itself -- as it clearly has that quirky, indie feel and stars two kids (which isn't the easiest thing in the world to set up). It's also a bit too sophisticated to be a kids movie. Have to think about this one more. I'm taking a look at the Black Family Singers next. But, first, has anything changed since our last email? Have you signed with anyone? Agent? Mgr?
I'm writing a one act play this quarter, and really enjoying it. I have to say, it's going to be quite good. I think a couple of friends of mine who are also in the class will be renting a playhouse with me to put them on later this year.
October 16, 2008
The Austin Film Festival
Since I had not one but two screenplay that placed in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition, I'm hopping on a plane tomorrow with two of my best UCLA friends (who also placed) and attending it! I kind of can't wait, actually, it should be a blast.
I've never been to Austin, Texas before, but I've heard great things about it. And the festival itself looks amazing, with a ton of opportunities to meet people and learn from experts. Since we placed in the competition, we'll be given special badges and treated like royalty (ok, one of those two statements are true.)
Nothing to do but wait...
I've got a number of really exciting things going on that I've done everything I can do to finish them and am now just waiting on other people.
The iPhone App
After a flurry of activity, this bad boy is designed, researched, and handed over to the developers. Now we just wait, and check on progress. I'm very excited about this application, because it's turning out to be better than I even thought it would be. I literally cannot wait until it is finally completed and ready to sell.
My short film
After hours and hours of time spend in pre-production, production, and then the post production editing, this baby has now been turned over to the audio and video experts who will put the last layers of polish on it. Once again, I'll be so excited to finally have the finished cut soon.
Feedback on my scripts
I've sent scripts out to a very large number of people lately, all of whom have requested them. Now I wait. I know enough about this town and this business to not necessarily expect anything on all this. But it sure would be nice. But now I just wait.
Elany Arts, the graphics design company that is otherwise known as my financial security, is caught up in a large RFP (request for proposal!) process for our biggest client. It's unnerving to have to compete to keep a client you've kept happy for seven years Though technically you are competing every day, to actually be in a process against a ton of other agencies where there is a very real chance of not being selected is worrisome. We've worked very hard on our response, but now can do nothing but wait to hear whether we've been chosen to make it to the second round. Unfortunately, this personal little ulcer will be continuing into early 2009, when the final selections are finally made.
October 14, 2008
Nicholl Contact update
It seems the second wave of contacts from the Nicholl is better than the first. Today I got an email from an executive at Steven Zaillian's production company. Steven Z wrote a little film you might have heard of called Schindler's List. She said that people were emailing about scripts that placed in the Nicholl and that a couple of people said mine was really good and she should read it. Not bad, right?
I also was contacted by 2929 Productions. These are real companies, people!
I just found out that both RETRO BAND and A WELL ADJUSTED BOY made the semi-finals of the ScriptShark screenwriting competition. Finalists will be announced in November.
I'm so happy to put your collective minds at ease (I know you were all desperately worried) and let you know that Lyric's 2nd Leopard Gecko, named Serendipity, is apparently in fine health and with us for the long haul. (Unlike her first, Ivy, and Ollie's first, Leopard, which both got really sick, wouldn't eat, and eventually had to be taken back to the pet store.)
And I dare anyone to say that this Gecko is not cute.
Now speaking of animals, Darby and I were sitting on some rocks on the beach and what do we see swimming in the waters right in front of us? A seal! Which is very cool (but you do have to put the idea of seals attracted Great White Sharks out of your mind a bit to truly appreciate it.)
Now speaking of Great White Sharks, I got what is probably the best t-shirt created in the history of mankind.
Yes, that's a Grizzly Bear and a Great White Shark locked in a fierce dance to the death. You may now applaud.
Today was a crazy day. Wake up and send scripts and emails to agents, managers and production houses around town. Then send emails to software developers in India. Then go to the beach with Darby. Then the grocery store. Then campus, where I play basketball for an hour before going to my playwriting class for 3 hours. Then my screenwriting class for 3.5 hours, where I engage in class while also following the Phillies score on my iPhone (go Phils!), then out to Denny's with my classmates where we talk about books until 12.30... I was literally out of the house from 10 AM to 12.30 AM... What life am I living?
October 13, 2008
Want to be a creative person? Prepare to get the smack down!
Well, goodness... I've been sending scripts out to people who request them because of my placement in the Nicholl Semis, and look at this delightful email I get today.
Thanks so much for letting me read HER 14TH MISSION. Unfortunately its a pass for me. I think your writing is quite strong but the subject matter is a hard sell. Studios are rarely buying any specs these days and historical specs are not selling at all. Its very rare.
Structurally - you've done a great job of hitting the three act structure. I think the topic is very interesting about Harriet Tubman's 14th mission however this to me feels more like a TV movie of the week than a feature. It wasn't elevated enough. I tend to respond stronger to writing that "pops" per say or has a distinct voice. To be honest your dialog was a little bland and I understand due to the historical nature of the piece it had to be that way.
Being that the concept and dialog were both a little too down the road- it wasn't something I ultimately responded to. Thank you again for sending me your script and best of luck with it.
I can handle it, but man it's not all that great to get a message like this! So I just tell myself... Keep writing... Keep working. Everyone can hate you, it only takes one to love you, and your film could get made.
I could respond to this email in a more point to point fashion, but I don't want to come across as the bitter, defensive writer... so no comment.
Except... it's "per se," not per say. And it's pretty redundant to say "Structurally, you've done a great job of hitting the three act structure." And how in the world is my writing strong if my dialogue is bland and said strong writing doesn't pop? And... oh nevermind. (Although I have more.)
And by the way, I really do take most critiques and notes really very well, but ones that give you no concrete examples or guidance and are all over the map while clearly contradicting themselves? Well, I guess I do have one point of agreement with the writer of this message.
Unfortunately it's a pass for me, too.
October 11, 2008
The Nicholls Contacts Begin
It seems the list of winners from the Nicholl Fellowship competition was released today, because I have already gotten 6 different people email me, asking to either read the script or read the logline. Hopefully something positive will come of this. So far, the people who have contacted me have been managers, production companies, and one agent...
It's pretty exciting, so in honor of this occasion I will share one of my favorite images with you.
October 10, 2008
Special Time with Ollie
Darby and Lyric are away, so Ollie and I have had the chance to have some special guy time. It's been fun. We went to the 3rd Street Promenade, shopped at Puzzle Zoo, went to the Apple Store, and then had burgers and shakes at Fatburger.
Today we went to a park we just discovered called Rustic Canyon Rec. It was really cool. We played handball, climbed trees, played basketball, ping-pong and foosball. Then we played Lego Batman and beat two boards. Alway good times.
Ollie's such a cool guy.
And he lost a front tooth.
October 08, 2008
AIG gets bailed out and then tightens the belt...
...Tightens the belt around our necks, that is.
AIG was so dangerously insolvent that they required a government bailout to the tune of $85 Billion dollars. And they got it. So how do they celebrate? Oh, how about a $440,000 retreat for its top executives? On our dime of course. I really truly think that should somehow be criminal. These people are completely willing to run a company into the ground because they still get their millions regardless.
And people wonder why normal civilians are suspicious of the bailout.
Slamdance Screenwriting Competition
First, a tiny smidge of bad news. I didn't advance to the final 10 in the Nicholl Competition. Oh well, again, that would have been icing on the cake, so while it would have been fun, in the long run it's no big deal. Placing as a semifinalist will give me a ton of momentum regardless.
Now, to take the edge off of all of your obviously crushing disappointment, I am happy to tell you that I found out today that A Well Adjusted Boy has placed in the 3rd round (the top 50) of the Slamdance Film Festival. Over 1900 scripts were submitted, so again, that's an achievement. They'll announce the final 25 on 10/13.
It's funny actually, they have been trying to get in touch with me since 9/30 but my email apparently kept bouncing for them. So I got a desperate call yesterday because they need me to sign a release form and send a new pdf of the script.
I also have a meeting with another producer set up for next week. Taking meetings with producers once a week is probably a good habit to get into.
Again, I'm not expecting anything huge to break from any of these events, specifically. But you get enough sharks in the water and eventually somebody gets eaten. (hmmm, maybe not the best analogy.)
But you know what I mean.
Today I had two very interesting meetings. The first was in Westwood with a genuine Navy Seal named Geoff. How do I know him, you wonder? He's a good friend of my mentor here at UCLA, a screenwriter named Paul Castro, who was also in the Navy. They are both fantastic people.
Geoff just got back from the set of Transformers 2, and he showed me a ton of pictures from the shoot. It looked amazing. (I'm one of the few film students who will admit that he loved the first Transformers movie... but then again I enjoyed Beverly Hills Chihuahua!) He was in the first film too, he played a secret service agent who was killed by that little boom box transformer.
I'm working on a web site for him, called iwanttobeanavyseal.com. He wrote and is now selling an e-book about training to become a navy seal. It's intense.
Then I had a really great meeting with a producer here in the Palisades. We talked for more than 2 hours about what she was looking for, and then the stories I've written. She seemed very into many of the stories, and asked to read all 5 that I pitched to her. Not bad! Of course, you always know the best meetings can result in NADA, but still, just getting acclimated to talking your own stories and seeing what interests people and what doesn't is great.
October 07, 2008
iPhones and Producers and Beverly Hills Chihuahua
I'm very excited right now because the iPhone application is really shaping up to be amazing. I can't wait until I can share all the details, because it's going to rock your socks.
I have a meeting with a producer today at 3. And another meeting with a Navy Seal at 11. Interesting day.
I took Lyric and Ollie to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It was surprisingly entertaining. We went to El Capitan, in Hollywood. It's an old, grandly restored movie house owned by Disney. It's just beautiful, and a wonderful place to see a Disney film. They almost always have some special live event before the film, and this time the actual dogs who starred in the film were there, doing tricks with their trainer. It was really fun.
And people complain about movie formulas. For the most part I agree. But BHC is a testament to the fact that if you hit all the points to a hero's journey kind of formula, and hit them well, you'll have a satisfying story, even if it's not all that creative. I am not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary eyed at moments. Ok, yes, I'm ashamed to admit it but there it is and nothing can change it.
October 04, 2008
Netflix + Roku = amazing value
If you have a Netflix account, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check out (and buy) the Roku box. It's $99, and that's all the additional money you will spend. Then, once you have purchased it, you can watch any film available for instant viewing from Netflix on your TV.
The quality is DVD level. And the selection, which used to be mostly classics, indies, and documentaries (which honestly, was fine for me, I had the actual DVD delivery aspect of Netflix for the other films), has recently been dramatically boosted, and now has more recent films and a much larger back catalog.
I'm serious, you should check this out.
October 02, 2008
Trying to be a good father
Sometimes parenting can be difficult. You wonder if you're making an impact, you're annoyed at yourself for not doing what you should, you're distracted, or losing patience.
Most of the time parenting is a joy. You get to view things through your child's eyes, you get to tangibly feel this deep well of love that you've built up over time. You have this little person that you just adore and have adored since they were born. There is no other relationship like that. I love to share most of my life with my kids.
But then, there are times when it goes above joy into pure... euphoria. When all of your efforts to be a good parent pay off, and it's obvious that the things you have done have worked, the investments you've made pay dividends. Today my daughter Lyric had a very difficult day. Actually, back it up, she had a very difficult two days, and yesterday fed into today. I don't want to get into details because it's her business and she is a very personal person, but I decided to talk to her as the best father I could be.
And it really worked out. She came alive, and I could just tell she was hearing everything and taking it in. After we talked, she played this song that's been one of "our songs" since she was literally one year old. It's called Snuggle Puppy.
These are the moments you remember forever.